More deceptively evocative prose from the master of lyrical
understatement. Muscovite Frank Reid is abandoned by his wife and
left to cope with a floundering printing business and the welfare
of his children against the daily trials of the freezing Russian
conditions. Booker shortlisted in 1988. (Kirkus UK)
SHORTLISTED FOR THE BOOKER PRIZE
Frank Reid had been born and brought up in Moscow. His father had emigrated there in the 1870s and started a print-works which, by 1913, had shrunk from what it was when Frank inherited it. In that same year, to add to his troubles, Frank’s wife Nellie caught the train back home to England, without explanation.
How is a reasonable man like Frank to cope? How should he keep his house running? Should he consult the Anglican chaplain’s wife? Should he listen to the Tolstoyan advice of his chief book-keeper? How do people live together, and what happens when, sometimes, they don’t?
“For the life of me I can’t decide how properly to respond to this book. Whether it contains a latent moral or allegorical message, or whether it is simply a tour de force of craft and imagination I have not the faintest idea. I only know that it is one of the most skilful and utterly fascinating novels I have read for years. I cannot imagine any kind of reader who would not get a thrill from this gloriously peculiar book.”
JAN MORRIS, 'Independent'
“Penelope Fitzgerald has produced a real Russian comedy, at once crafty and scatty. She has mastered a city, a landscape and a vanished time. She has written something remarkable, part novel, part evocation, and done so in prose that never puts a foot wrong. She is so unostentatious a writer that she needs to be read several times. What is impressive is the calm confidence behind the apparent simplicity of utterance. 'The Beginning of Spring' is her best novel to date.”
ANITA BROOKNER, 'Spectator'
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